US President Joe Biden today postponed Secretary of State Antony Blinken's first official visit to China after a Chinese spy balloon flew across the US. The decision by the US President came hours before Blinken was scheduled to depart for Beijing.
A senior State Department official said conditions were not right at this time for what would have been the first high-level US-China meeting there in years. China expressed regret for the unintended entry of what it called a meteorological civilian airship into US airspace. US officials made clear they did not believe that explanation and the Pentagon restated its assessment that it was a surveillance aircraft.
China said on Friday that a balloon spotted over American airspace was used for weather research and was blown off course, despite U.S. suspicion it was spying. In a statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the balloon was a civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research. The Ministry said the airship has limited steering capabilities and “deviated far from its planned course” because of winds.
“The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into U.S. airspace due to force majeure,” the statement said, citing a legal term used to refer to events beyond one's control.
The discovery further strained already tense relations between Beijing and Washington. The Pentagon decided not to shoot down the balloon, which was potentially flying over sensitive sites, because of concerns about hurting people on the ground.
The news came as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was expected to make his first trip to Beijing this weekend. On Thursday, a senior American defence official told Pentagon reporters that the U.S. has “very high confidence” that the object spotted over U.S. airspace in recen (AIR NEWS)